Duterte says Filipinos can use Pfizer vaccine, but touts Sinovac deal

Daily life in the Philippines amid coronavirus
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MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday he would not stop Filipinos from getting shots of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, despite reports in Norway of deaths among frail elderly people after being inoculated.

"Almost everybody that I know (is) scrambling to buy this Pfizer (vaccine). To me I think it's a good one," he said in a late-night televised address. "If you want to follow the experience of Norway, go ahead. Nobody would stop you."

Norway said on Monday it was not changing its policy on the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine following reports of deaths among very frail recipients after the inoculation was given.

In his address, Duterte also reiterated his defense of the government's supply deals involving CoronaVac, the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech.

The Philippines' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorised the emergency use of Pfizer's vaccine, the first to be approved in the Southeast Asian country, which has one of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases in Asia.

The government aims to begin immunization next month, hoping to inoculate 70 million people, or two-thirds of its population, this year.

Duterte said Sinovac's vaccine is now being used in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Brazil, and there have been no deaths reported so far.

The Philippines has also firmed up supply deals with Novavax, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Russia's Gamaleya Institute, according to Carlito Galvez, a former military chief who handles the government's vaccine procurement.

Duterte assured the public of corruption-free vaccine supply deals, after the Senate launched an inquiry into government transactions amid questions about pricing transparency and efficacy.

"I'm telling now General Galvez to proceed with his game plan, with or without the investigation", which he said could derail the government's vaccination plan.

(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Hugh Lawson)